Boris Johnson has warned parliamentarians gearing up to try to block a no-deal Brexit that they risk undermining his negotiating hand in Brussels.
In a defiant interview with Sky News, the prime minister defended his decision to suspend parliament for five weeks in the run-up to October – and insisted he was still battling to get a deal.
“I’m afraid that the more our friends and partners think at the back of their minds that Brexit could be stopped, that the UK could be kept in, by parliament, the less likely they are to give us the deal that we need,” he said.
“And so that’s why I really hope that MPs will allow the UK to do a deal and to get ready for a no-deal Brexit – and that’s the best way forward for our country.”
Asked about the protesters who have taken to the streets since the decision to prorogue parliament was announced on Wednesday, Johnson said: “My message to them is that I think the worst thing for democracy now would be to cancel the referendum, which is what some people are now suggesting – to nullify, to annul that result, to tell the people that they’re going to be ignored, after all the promises that have been made.
“Everybody can see what the risk is now. If we frustrate that mandate, if we stop the UK from leaving on 31 October, if that’s what parliamentarians end up doing, it will do lasting damage to people’s trust in politics. It will do lasting, catastrophic damage to the major parties in this country,” he added.
The campaign group Momentum has urged members of the public to block roads and bridges in protest at the move, which has sparked a ferocious backlash from across the political spectrum.
The anti-Brexit campaign group Another Europe Is Possible has organised 32 #StopTheCoup demonstrations to take place in England, Scotland and Wales on Saturday.
But EU officials remain concerned that the UK has so far presented no concrete proposals for replacing the backstop – the insurance policy for avoiding a hard border in Ireland, which Johnson has described as undemocratic.
Johnson hopes to strike a deal at a key meeting of the European council on 17 October, and will then give MPs the chance to vote on it the following week, just days before the Halloween Brexit deadline. He insisted they would have “a lot of time” to debate the issues.
“We’re coming up to the last period before we leave on 31 October, and in that period, parliament is going to have a lot of time, still – and they’ve spent three years debating Brexit by the way, without actually getting it over the line,” Johnson said.
“They’re going to have a lot of time for consideration, and what I want to do now, which I think is what most people in the country want the government to do, is get on and try and get an agreement, but if we can’t get an agreement, get ready to come out anyway.”